After the travesty that was 2012, it’s no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays are likely to be among the most active teams in the MLB this off-season when it comes to looking for pitching help. That said, there haven’t exactly been a ton of names being bounced around yet. Perhaps it’s because the team is still looking for a manager for 2013; or perhaps the Blue Jays are simply interested in just about everyone out there.
The problem, of course, is finding a player that would be the right fit for the team. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Anibal Sanchez might just be one such player. In his feature on the likely landing spots for the top free agents in the ’12-’13 class, Morosi lists the Blue Jays as odds-on destination for what he Sanchez, who he deemed to be the number-three free agent on the list.
So, why is Toronto interested? Mainly, that Sanchez is in his prime, and that he has overcome a pair of very large hurdles: “Can he pitch in the AL? (Yes.) Can he pitch in October? (Yes.) The Detroit Tigers will try to re-sign him, but the Blue Jays are more desperate to upgrade their rotation.” The term “desperate” suggests to me that the Blue Jays might have to overpay for someone like the 28-year old Sanchez; to be fair, that sounds just like the situation that the team is in right now – but is Sanchez a good fit for the team?
Let’s look at a couple of things. While Morosi is on point that Sanchez can succeed in October (he was brilliant in his three postseason starts this year), whether Sanchez can pitch in the AL is less certain. For one, he’s only pitched 74.2 innings in the AL, and while about half of those numbers (in September) were excellent, the ones prior were much less so. Sanchez was struggling before he was traded to the Tigers, and he struggled for a month afterwards, pitching into the seventh inning just once in his first six AL starts, while posting a 4.82/1.64 ERA/WHIP ratio over 28 August innings.
Even when the numbers balanced out after an excellent September, 12 starts and under under 75 innings is not much of a sample size – so which Sanchez will show up next season? The one who pitched brilliantly in September and in the postseason, or the one who struggled for three straight months? While we’re looking at small sample sizes, Sanchez’s record against the AL East has been anything but inspiring thus far: in six starts against opponents in the Blue Jays’ division (including three against Toronto), Sanchez gave up 26 runs over 31.1 innings, good for a 7.52 ERA.
Would Sanchez be an immediate improvement over most of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation? Certainly. That said, his ability to pitch in the AL – and specifically the AL East – is anything but certain. Morosi points out that Sanchez’s stock has been steadily rising over the last two months, but is it the ideal kind of buy-high situation for the Blue Jays? As always, that’d depend on the price tag, but I’d say this is one name that comes with a much bigger caveat than a lot of the other names out there, while the relative upside might not be as high.